A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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27. THE HOUSE OF AUSTIN FRIARS
Sir John Handlow, knt., then or later lord of the manor of Borstall, about 1268 acquired several parcels of land from divers persons in the suburb of Oxford opposite the gate called Smithgate, which parcels at the instance of the said knight the king gave to the Austin Friars to build a church and other houses and offices. Sir John Handlow was, after the king, considered as the chief founder of the friary. (fn. 1) The foundation was confirmed by Pope Gregory X. (fn. 2) The following gifts may be included among these parcels: in 1268 the king gave to the friars to found an oratory (1) the land with its appurtenances in the parish of Holywell which he had of the gift of Roger le Clerc of Cumnor—the friars being bound to pay yearly one silver halfpenny to Roger and the service due to the chief lord; (2) the land in the same parish which he had of the gift of Master Martin de Wynton, the friars being bound to pay yearly one silver halfpenny to Martin, 12d. to the chief lord, and 6d. to the heirs of Peter de Brideport. (fn. 3) In 1269-70 Bogo de Clare, rector of the church of St. Peter in the East, at the instance and precept of his lord and patron King Henry, granted to these friars part of his land in the parish of Holywell, 'lying between the high road which runs towards Beaumont and the land of Master Walter Byllingdon,' to build there a chapel and houses, and to hold without any service or exaction. This land paid to the rector of St. Peter's in the East 3s. 2d. and 1 lb. of pepper a year; and in compensation for the loss, John de Coleshull, burgess of Oxford, gave to him 4s. of annual rent from a messuage in the Jewry held by Lumbard de Crekelade, a Jew. (fn. 4) About the same time Robert Maynard of Oxford, chaplain, arranged that Philip son of John le Kyng of Holywell should pay 2s. a year to the rector of Holywell on behalf of the Austin Friars out of lands which the said Philip held of him. (fn. 5) In 1271 the king gave these friars 5 marks towards the purchase of their area. (fn. 6)
From the convent of St. Frideswide, while John Leuekonore was prior (1278-84), the friars, in consideration of 100s. of silver, acquired a piece of land in the suburb of Oxford in the parish of Holywell, lying between the land of the friars (which was formerly held by Walter le Norreys) on the south and east, and the land of Richard of Canterbury on the north, and Beaumont Street (now Park Road) on the west, together with two other adjacent plots. (fn. 7) This land probably contained the five houses of Alexander the fisher, Stapeleston the scribe, Thomas the mason, and John de Zestele, which were demised by St. Frideswide's convent to the Austin Friars at this time. (fn. 8) Towards the building of the church and houses Sir John Handlow after the death of Henry III made many grants, but he died before the completion of the church, in which he desired to be buried. (fn. 9) Grants of oaks for timber from the king between 1269 and 1275 show that building was then going on. (fn. 10) On 16 November, 1316, Edward II, on the information of Friar Luke his confessor, gave the Austin Friars a piece of ground in his quarry in the forest of Shotover with licence to dig for stone there for the fabric of their church and houses at Oxford. (fn. 11)
Elias le Coylter of Oxford desired to alienate
in mortmain to the Austin Friars a messuage in
the suburb of Oxford in 1293-4: an inquest
was held and the jurors made a favourable return,
but there is no record of the grant having been
made. (fn. 12) In June, 1335, the king granted to
them two messuages and an acre of land adjoining their place, which he had of the gift of
William le Taillour of Higham Ferrers, chaplain.
These were held of the Warden of Merton, who
possessed also rights of pasture there, and the
cunningly contrived by deception and collusion of the common law that they should still be held in the king's hands, that by that colour they may enclose them and exclude the warden of Merton.
The king refused to be a party to the fraud, and the college made good its claim in proceedings in the Mayor's Court and then in the Court of King's Bench (1339), and seems to have exacted a rent of 21s. 6d. a year for the land. The prior of the Austin Friars was ordered to pay £10 damages. (fn. 13) In a plea of 'fresh force' or novel disseisin which the college instituted before the mayor and bailiffs of Oxford 1338, the names of the friars are given, which being, as Wood remarks, 'a rarity,' we insert here: John de Saltford, prior, William de Circestre, Walter de Chaleston, William de Chedeworth, Nicholas de Abyndon, John de la Chapele, John de Ykesworth, William de Durham, Nicholas de Longevylle, John de Bristowe, Guido de Cantebrugge, John de Coleby, John filius Thomae de Bedell de Oxon, John de Stodeham, and John filius Ricardi le Cooke dictus Mek de Oxon, 'being fourteen besides the prior, other students of the same order, and servants belonging to the house.' (fn. 14)
In 1336 Edward III granted £20 to Friar Geoffrey of Maldon, Austin friar of Oxford going to parts beyond the sea. (fn. 15)
Archbishop Peckham forbade the Austin Friars of Oxford to hear confessions in 1280 until they showed him by what authority they acted. (fn. 16) In 1284 he denounced them for excommunicating and defaming the Friars Minors of Oxford who had received one of their friars, though 'it is lawful to change a vow for a better one.' (fn. 17) In 1289 three of the Mendicant Orders held provincial chapters at Oxford, that of the Austin Friars meeting on 15 August. (fn. 18) In general the Austin Friars seem to have acted with the other orders.
A university statute passed in 1326 prescribed 'for the prosperity and utility of scholars studying in the Faculty of Arts,' that every B.A. should dispute once and respond once each year at the Austin Friars. (fn. 19) These exercises seem to have been held here till the dissolution, except for brief intermissions, as for instance in 1530, when, the convent being infected with the plague, a dispensation was granted that bachelors might perform the said exercises in St. Mary's Church. (fn. 20)
The name 'disputations in Austins' was still current in Wood's time, and down to the end of the eighteenth century every B.A. who aspired to the M.A. degree had to 'do Austins.' (fn. 21)
The 'Vesperies of Artists' might be celebrated either at St. Mildred's or at the Austin Friars. (fn. 22)
The number of disputants was large and every year two Bachelors of Arts were appointed by the proctors as 'collatores' or 'collectors' of the disputations at the Austin Friars, their business being to allot times and parts to the disputants: (fn. 23) (it was a difficult task as all candidates wanted to 'respond' and none to 'oppose'). (fn. 24) Two Masters of Arts were likewise appointed yearly as masters of the Austin Schools,' one of whom had to be present as moderator at every disputation. In 1492 the university decreed
That, whereas the Masters of the Schools at the Austin Friars work hard without reward, while the Masters of Grammar do no work and yet receive salaries from the university, the sum paid to the latter shall be transferred to the former, who shall be and shall be reckoned not only Masters of the Schools at the Austin Friars but also Masters of Grammar. (fn. 25)
The only masters of grammar paid by the university were the two supervisors of the grammar schools, (fn. 26) originally endowed by Nicholas de Tyngewick in 1321; (fn. 27) and the change in the title of the masters of the schools at the Austin Friars was perhaps necessary in order to legalize this diversion of funds to another purpose. This statute seems to be the sole basis for the belief that the Austin Friars at Oxford 'almost engrossed the tuition of grammar and at one time were noted for giving their instruction gratuitously.' (fn. 28) The masters of the Augustinian schools were not friars and did not teach grammar. (fn. 29)
The friary seems to have afforded a refuge to some scholars during the great riot of 1354. (fn. 30) In 1355 Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge were formally recognized as the only universities in which Austin Friars might act as masters of theology without licence of the prior-general or chapter-general. (fn. 31) In 1357 Friar John de Kedington of this convent, S.T.P., appealed against the chancellor and proctors of the university to the archbishop's court, in spite of the opposition of the prior of the house, and was suspended by the university authorities. (fn. 32)
At this time Richard FitzRalph was making his attacks on the Mendicant Orders, and Geoffrey de Hardeby, an Austin friar who studied at Oxford, (fn. 33) wrote a book, De Vita Evangelica, (fn. 34) in answer to FitzRalph's treatise on 'evangelical poverty.' Another, Thomas of Ashborne, argued against paying tribute to Gregory XI in the council of London in 1374. (fn. 35)
An Austin friar, John Schypton, was among the twelve doctors who approved the decree condemning Wiclif's doctrines on the Eucharist. The decree was promulgated in the school of the Austin Friars in 1381, where Wiclif himself was lecturing. (fn. 36) Thomas Wyntirton, another Austin friar, and contemporary of Wiclif at Oxford, published a treatise against Wiclif's Confessio. (fn. 37) Among the Oxford Augustinians who took part in the proceedings against Wiclif and his followers were Thomas of Ashborne, John Banekyne, John Courte, Robert Waldby, afterwards archbishop of Dublin and finally of York, and John Waldby about this time provintial prior of the order. Peter Pateshull, who became a Lollard and made violent attacks on his order, was an Austin friar and D.D. of Oxford. (fn. 38)
In 1396 an Austin friar was refused the grace to read the Sentences (i.e. to take the B.D. degree) because he had omitted a single disputation in the year of his opponency. (fn. 39) This was perhaps Friar Anthony Ciccarelli of St. Elpidio in the diocese of Fermo, Italy, who in 1398 received from Boniface IX licence for himself and another member of his order of his choice to transfer themselves from Oxford to Paris; Friar Anthony had been deputed by his superiors to study theology at Oxford and promoted to the degree of lector, but could not complete his course there 'on account of the divisions of the country and the impotence of the convent. (fn. 40)
In 1420 the university entrusted the duty of deciding what should be done with the unreclaimed pledges deposited in the chests before the first pestilence to a committee of five Mendicant friars: their names were Thomas Benham, O.P., Thomas Chayne, O.M., Richard Franke Ord. S. Aug., John Lauvale, Ord. Carm., Robert Hyldreskelf, O.P. (fn. 41)
In 1438 Philip Norreys, S.T.P., seems to have attacked the Austin Friars in his lectures, and was cited to appear before the conservators of the order. William Musilwyk, regent master of the Austin Friars, excommunicated him without leave of the chancellor, and the case came before the Privy Council. The university resented this violation of their privileges, and after due deliberation degraded Musilwyk and suspended his convent which supported him. Eventually the university remitted the penalty on the friar as a special favour to the Duke of Gloucester. (fn. 42) In 1450 John Norreys did penance for laying violent hands on Thomas English, an Austin friar. (fn. 43)
The expenses of inception formed the subject of complaint of the Mendicant Orders to the king in 1460. (fn. 44) Thus in 1429 William Russell, described as an Austin friar but perhaps a Minorite, paid £10 in lieu of feasting the regent masters, (fn. 45) and John Goodwin, prior of the Austin friary, paid the like sum in 1447. (fn. 46) The university denied the friars' statements with regard to the cost of degrees, but in 1478 decreed that every Mendicant friar should either feast the regent masters or pay 10 marks on inception. (fn. 47)
Among the benefactors of the Austin Friars were the executors of Queen Eleanor, who gave them 4 marks in 1291; (fn. 48) John de Chastleton, illuminator, who in 1317 left a tenement in Cat Street to be sold and the money given to these friars that they might insert his name in their martyrology; (fn. 49) John de Docklington 1335 (20s.); (fn. 50) John Bereford (mayor at the time of the riot on St. Scholastica's Day), in 1361 (13s. 4d.); (fn. 51) Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford in 1361 (£10); (fn. 52) Richard de Garaford in 1395; (fn. 53) Lady Eleanor de Sancto Amando in 1426 (£2); (fn. 54) Robert Abdy, master of Balliol, in 1483 (20s.); (fn. 55) John Claymond, president of Corpus Christi College, in 1536 (20s.) (fn. 56)
From the nunnery of Godstow they received 3s. 4d. a year and a peck of oatmeal and one of peas in Lent; (fn. 57) from Oseney, 4d. a week, and 5s. at Christmas; (fn. 58) from Durham College, 10s. a year. (fn. 59) They were not in receipt of an annual grant from the exchequer.
William of Worcester gives the following measurements of the church: 'length of the choir 60 steps, of the nave 66 steps, width 40 steps.' (fn. 60)
Very few names of those buried in the church besides the founder have come to light; those of Thomas Elkyns of Oxford 'freemason,' 1449, (fn. 61) and Walter Curson of Waterperry (1527) and Isabel his wife are recorded. The monument over the tomb of the Cursons was removed after the dissolution to Waterperry church, where it may still be seen. (fn. 62)
In 1456 Edmund Rede, esq., a descendant of Sir John Handlow, claimed the privileges of founder by hereditary right. The claim was after investigation admitted by the prior and convent, at whose request John Capgrave, the provincial prior, attended the ceremony of his installation. This took place 21 April in the presence of the prior of St. Frideswide's, the master of the Hospital of St. John without the East Gate, the Warden of the New College, the proctors, and others. To Edmund Rede and his son William the friars assigned certain chambers in their house lying between the church on the south and the refectory on the north, together with a garden adjoining. (fn. 63) The friars seem to have taken in lodgers, for in 1501 we find mention of William Kemp, tanner, 'living within the Austin Friars.' (fn. 64)
Edward IV, 8 March, 1473-4 granted to these friars on account of their poverty the right of having a fair for all kinds of merchandise yearly on 5 to 10 May on their soil adjoining their church, and of holding a court of piepowder there before their steward to hear and determine trespasses and evil-doings committed within the fair, with power of arrest and imprisonment. (fn. 65) The fair was in 1538 said to be worth £4 or £5 to them, (fn. 66) and seems to have been of considerable importance to the neighbourhood. (fn. 67)
In the fifteenth century John Banard, theological writer and Austin friar, is said to have been chancellor of the university in 1412. (fn. 68) He would thus be the first chancellor chosen after the suppression of the academic freedom by Archbishop Arundel. It is probable that John Lowe, provincial prior in 1428, afterwards bishop of St. Asaph and of Rochester, principal founder of the great library of the Austin Friars of London, and the famous John Capgrave, provincial in 1456, studied at Oxford. (fn. 69) Thomas Penketh, provincial in 1469, famous for his knowledge of Duns Scotus, taught theology here in 1473 and 1477. (fn. 70) William Galeon (1507) provincial prior and reformer of his order, was a student in this convent. (fn. 71)
The common library of the Austin Friars was placed at the end of the dormitory. (fn. 72) Thomas Gascoigne in 1430 noted several books here: (fn. 73) various works of Ægidius (Romanus), and of Hugo (de Sancto Victore?); William of Auxerre on the Sentences; 'an excellent index of original doctors according to the order of books, not of the alphabet;' the Correctorium Corruptorii and Paris Quodlibeta of Thomas Aquinas; several works of Anselm and Dionysius the Areopagite. It is probable that Royal MS. 10 A xv in the British Museum—containing the Defensor Pacis of Marsiglio of Padua, and William of Occam's De Imperatorum et Pontificum Potestate — was bought by Gascoigne from this library.
In the last thirty years of the existence of the friary, only twenty-two Austin Friars appear in the university register. (fn. 74) Among them were John Stokes, provincial prior and D.D. of Cambridge, who incepted as D.D. of Oxford in 1512; William Wetherall, who was provincial prior in 1531; (fn. 75) and George Browne, afterwards archbishop of Dublin, who by Cromwell's influence obtained the degree of D.D. in 1534 'without costs or charges' (fn. 76)
The university authorities seem to have been suspicious of Lutheran tendencies among the Austin friars. In 1527 Alice Crispe was reported to have married John Dayryke alias Daywyke, an Austin friar; 'and because the aforesaid contract seems to be contrary to the sacred canons, and to agree with the opinions of the Lutherans, which alas are very prevalent just now among schismatics and heretics,' Alice was summoned before the chancellor's court. Eventually she cleared herself of the charge with four 'compurgatrices.' No action seems to have been taken with regard to the friar. (fn. 77)
From another entry in the records of the chancellor's court it appears that in 1531 Friar John Wyg had gone away owing the convent 33s. 8d.; the friars obtained the court's permission to appropriate Wyg's mare, which, however, was valued at only 7s. (fn. 78)
George Browne was made provincial of the Austin Friars in 1534 by the king, and in the same year general visitor (with John Hilsey, O.P.) of all the Mendicant Orders. (fn. 79) He was also prior of the London house, and acted as head of the Oxford convent, and in this capacity is said to have felled the best trees, taken away stuff and plate to the value of 200 marks, together with £9 11s. 1d. in money. (fn. 80) The plate included various goblets and salts, nine silver spoons with maidens' heads, and six Apostle spoons. He left only three chalices for the visitor to send to Cromwell.
Dr. John London was commissioned to visit the Oxford friaries, in conjunction with the mayor (Mr. Banaster), Mr. Pye, and Mr. Fryer. (fn. 81) The Austin Friars he found had only 6 or 7 acres of land, and their house was ruinous. (fn. 82) They and the White Friars were in such poverty that 'if they do not forsake their houses, their houses will forsake them.' Their church ornaments and household stuff were not worth £10. The Austin Friars surrendered at once on 6 or 7 July. But the visitors felt bound to provide them with meat and drink till their capacities were sent. The list of Austin Friars desiring capacities on 31 August contains ten names: Ralph Jonson, Geoffrey Tomson, Edward Foxgill, William Mory, Edmund Hyans, Thomas Fryth, Michael Symson, George Elsdan, Robert York, Robert Baly. (fn. 83) It appears that the capacities had not yet arrived on 6 November. (fn. 84)
Dr. London had on 8 July urged Cromwell that the site of the Austin Friars and the profits of their fair should be granted to Mr. Pye for life, and then to the town. (fn. 85) These proposals were not carried out. After being let to yearly tenants in 1539 the site was leased in 1546 for 21 years to Thomas Carden, esq., for 46s. 4d. a year. It was then purchased by Henry Grey, duke of Suffolk, and in 1552 sold by him and Thomas Duport to Henry Bayley (husband of Anne Frere), from whom it passed to William Frere. He sold it in 1588-9 to the city, from whom it was acquired by the foundress of Wadham College. (fn. 86)
John de Saltford, (fn. 87) 1338
John, (fn. 88) 1357
John Goodwin, (fn. 89) 1447
John Stockton, (fn. 90) 1456
Thomas Thwayts, (fn. 91) 1489.
John Storke or Stock, (fn. 92) 1499, 1508, 1509
William Wetherall, (fn. 93) 1515 (?)
Ralph Wedell, (fn. 94) 1518
John Hancocks (fn. 95) was sub-prior in 1533